Esa Vance reflects on her 2017-2018 GAP year.
“God loves you.” I grew up hearing this all eighteen years of my life, but I had never been convinced that it was true. What faith I did have I wished to preserve during my college years so I applied to the Kairos GAP Program because of the transformation I saw in some of my friends who had interned with Kairos. After being accepted into the GAP Program I had three months to begin raising ten thousand dollars to fund my GAP year and prepare to move to Lansing, Michigan for nine months. “That is a crazy thing to decide” and “aren’t mission years supposed to be in exotic places?” I would repeat these doubts over in my head, but long before applying there was an assurance about the GAP Program set in my heart that would not be shaken even though I tried.
I arrived in August after God pretty much dragged me to Michigan. It was a new place, a new environment, full of new people, and a list of things I had never done before. I quickly discovered that if I tried to do everything set before me by myself I would fall fast and fail. I could not do it all on my own, and not so coincidentally the GAP Program put me in a position where I needed to accept the hand of God. From living in a household with the other female interns to serving the local Lansing community to managing youth retreats, I could not rely solely on myself. I needed to turn to the power of prayer daily to move the mountains before me and through this need, I forged a relationship with the Lord.
One day I was having a really tough go of it. I was riding the city bus my (main mode of transportation) surrounded by strangers that I did not enjoy sitting next to. I was waiting on the Lord to work in my life and in that moment of blinding judgment and ignorance, the Father shone through in His clarity. I was not waiting on Him; He was waiting on me, to open my eyes and see Jesus Christ in every person on that bus. This was Christ’s presence: me sitting on the bus on my way home from services called to be an instrument of love to those around me.
I was called to a city in Michigan, not somewhere exotic. I went to bed every night thinking “God worked today, and I am not who I was yesterday.” It was not a single moment that transformed me but rather each day of those nine months. Every time I would look to the Father to see He was already looking at me. I experienced the Father’s love by the presence of His Son in my life and I was able to be Christ to others by the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Amidst these nine months of adventure, joy, friendship, service, humility, hardship, laughter, risk, trial, and peace, I needed the Lord. Moreover, I came to know and love Him because He loved me first.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 2:18 ESV